The most auspicious event of Satu Suro plays an important role in the life of the Javanese. Satu Suro marks the first (‘satu’) day of the Suro month, which is considered the most sacred month of the Javanese calendar. Furthermore, Suro is the first month of the Javanese calendar, and coincides with Muharram – the first month of the Islamic calendar (Hijrah). Since ancient times, the Javanese spend the night (‘malam’) of Satu Suro through practicing meditation and contemplation. Besides spiritual practice, ceremonial rituals are performed at the Javanese royal palace (‘keraton’) of Surakarta and Yogyakarta.
Traditionally, the first day of the new year marks the beginning of a new life, i.e. a (spiritual and worldly) rebirth. In this way, then, Satu Suro also can be seen as a cleansing ritual, for it offers the Javanese the opportunity to purify themselves through performing austerities throughout the night. Hence, the majority of Javanese will abstain from eating, drinking, talking, and sleeping during the night of Satu Suro. This is believed to generate immeasurable merit and virtue, which will result in auspicious blessings of good luck, health and wealth for the coming year.
At midnight there is an ancient ritual performed by the royal court servants (‘abdi dalem’) at the keraton of Surakarta. This ritual is called ‘Kirab Malam Satu Suro’ and is performed according ancient tradition, which originates from the early days of the Mataram Kingdom in seventeenth century Java. The Kirab Malam Satu Suro ceremony involves the ritual cleansing (‘kirab’) of the collection of sacred pusaka heirloom items in the keraton. The pusaka collection mainly consists of traditional weapons such as ancient kerises (daggers) and tombak spears, though it also includes several traditional music instruments (gamelan) and royal regalia.
However, perhaps the most unique pusaka item in the royal palace at Surakarta is Kyai Slamet Kebo Bule, an albino buffalo which is believed to possess supernatural abilities. The white buffalo is considered a royal descendant as well. The kebo bule, as it is often called, was offered as a royal gift to Sultan Pakubuwono II (1711–1749), who kept the animal as a pet. Kyai Slamet is a mystical pusaka that is inextricably linked with the traditional Javanese belief system (Kejawen). At midnight of Satu Suro, the Kirab Malam Satu Suro ceremony follows with a procession through the streets of Surakarta. The procession is lead by the kebo bule, followed by the abdi dalem carrying the ritually cleansed pusaka items. Thus, auspicious blessings of protection and good health are bestowed upon the Javanese.